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Terps' season of inconsistency

The Baltimore Sun

Oh, the irony. The Terrapins are 4-2, but it's not the 4-2 anybody expected.

By upsetting California and Clemson, both nationally ranked at the time, Maryland showed how good it can be. But losses to Virginia and Middle Tennessee demonstrated that this Terps team has wandering focus.

It's a group that can look fierce one week and indifferent the next. This must be a maddening team for opponents to scout, since not even Maryland's coaches know what they're going to get once the ball is kicked off.

Here's a look at how the 2008 season has gone for the Terps:

Best win: : The Terps were toast in the first half at Clemson, trailing 17-6. But Maryland stormed back to win its first Atlantic Coast Conference game of the season, 20-17, silencing the Death Valley partisans.

Worst loss: : How do you spell E-M-B-A-R-R-A-S-S-M-E-N-T? Maryland checked its dignity at the door when it entered Scott Stadium and lost 31-0 to Virginia - the most lopsided game in the rivalry since 2002.

Biggest surprise: : Sure, Maryland no longer had ace running backs Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball from the past season. But the veteran offensive line, minus the injuries that hindered it in 2007, was supposed to open up holes for Da'Rel Scott. But the line has struggled, and the running game has suffered.

Biggest disappointment: : Maryland's defense is surrendering 394 yards (249 passing, 145 rushing) per game, ranking 90th in the nation. The secondary entered the season with three new starters, so some slippage was expected there. But this? The Terps allowed untested quarterbacks such as Virginia's Marc Verica to have career games.

Most valuable player, offense: : More than any Terp, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey can intimidate defenses and change games. He's averaging 31 yards a carry on six rushing attempts. His 76-yard run got Maryland back into the Clemson game, and he had two long receptions in the win over Cal. But Heyward-Bey has had zero catches since the Terps began ACC play against Clemson and Virginia.

Most valuable player, defense: : Linebacker Alex Wujciak always seems to be around the ball. His 52 tackles lead the team and rate third in the ACC. On special teams, Torrey Smith has often put the Terps in good field position with deep kickoff returns.

Best play (tie): : Wujciak stops Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper on fourth-and-inches late in the game. Kevin Barnes generates an "ooooooh" from the Byrd Stadium crowd when he belts Cal running back Jahvid Best.

Second-half outlook: : Maryland has played well against the toughest teams on its schedule. So maybe it's good for the Terps to have a handful of challenging games in the season's second half. Five of Maryland's six future opponents (Wake Forest, Boston College, Florida State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina) have only one loss apiece. Only North Carolina State at 2-4 has multiple defeats. Expect the Terps to play more consistent football, but will it be enough? Terps seniors called two meetings this week - one for seniors and one for the whole team - to try to instill a sense of urgency. "I feel we should definitely be a lot more active than we've been," wide receiver Danny Oquendo said yesterday of himself and the team's 29 other seniors. "It's about rallying the troops. These meetings were a big step in that role."



Oct. 18, noon


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